Ride Lonesome (1959)

“There are some things a man just can’t ride around.”

Synopsis:
A bounty hunter (Randolph Scott) seeking his wife’s killer (Lee Van Cleef) uses the killer’s brother (James Best) as bait.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
This “powerful, provocative” western by Budd Boetticher manages to explore several important themes within the space of just 73 minutes. As in many of the other Boetticher/Scott films, Scott’s character is once again hell-bent on seeking vengeance for his wife’s death. But his story is balanced by that of two outlaws — one (Pernell Roberts) calculating, the other (James Coburn) gullible — who have competing plans for the killer’s murderous brother: by bringing him in themselves, they can receive total amnesty for their previous crimes. Since the true villain of the film (Van Cleef) is rarely on-screen, the primary interactions thus take place between Scott, Roberts, and a buxomy young widow (Karen Steele) they pick up along the way, who represents the possibility of a new life for Roberts.

Unfortunately, despite its unique take on Western themes, Ride Lonesome is still very much a product of its time — as referenced in the following exchange about Steele, which reveals antiquated notions about what exactly women “need”:

Coburn: I wonder what she’ll do now she’s out a man?
Roberts: Find another.
Coburn: Well, she loved that fella hard enough… She’d stay a widow, wouldn’t she?
Roberts: Ain’t the kind — not her…. She’s the kind that’s got a need — a deep, lonely need only a man can get at…

In addition, I’m puzzled by screenwriter Burt Kennedy’s decision to include a skirmish with local Indians, since it does nothing to further the plot. However, overall this remains a provocative western by a master director, and is certainly worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Pernell Roberts and James Coburn (in his screen debut) as the opportunistic outlaws
    Roberts and Coburn
  • The playful yet sober rapport between Roberts and Scott
    Scott and Roberts
  • Beautiful landscapes
    Landscape

Must See?
Yes; this is one of the best known of the Boetticher/Scott films, and should be seen by every film fanatic.

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Ride Lonesome (1959)”

  1. A must! Another solid Boetticher/Scott collaboration.

    To those familiar with others in this top-notch series of westerns, ‘RL’ may come off as one of the simpler ones (even tho they’re all economically straightforward). However, by the time it reaches its conclusion, ‘RL’ reveals itself to be just as solid and sturdy as (if memory serves) most if not all of them.

    I’m very fond of this series; these are films that can easily be returned to from time to time, with equal enjoyment waiting. They’re all short, but they’re rich.

    The cast is strong here – with Roberts turning in something wonderfully nuanced. (OK, he does happily remind me of a former bf; even so, he’s a standout.)

    Fave scene: Roberts talks Best out of using a Winchester on Scott. A tense, well-written scene.

    The concluding moment is very fitting and memorable.

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